Being busy has become such a norm in our society that we often find ourselves feeling bad about what we are not doing, rather than taking a larger look at the societal imbalances. Whether we are students, employees, entrepreneurs, or at-home parents, there are usually more to-do’s on our list than there is time to do them. So we try to adapt with less sleep, more caffeine, synchronizing calendars, task-managing apps, coordinated carpools and anything else that might help us get things done more efficiently. And, for those of us on a spiritually conscious path, we squeeze in a morning meditation or rush off to unwind at a yoga class at the end of the day. In our efforts to seek balance, we sprinkle in the rest and relaxation time, but rarely feel comfortable examining our deeper impulses to keep on going.
As our bodies become more exhausted, our souls begin to seek refuge. But are we really ready to release the busyness?
There are many reasons we chase time and fill our calendars. Beyond keeping a roof over our heads and bellies filled, we want to enjoy certain comforts, please others, do the right thing, and fit in with our communities. Letting go of the have-to’s can seem detrimental to these fundamental needs and desires.
Thankfully, we don’t have to become monastery monks to slow down. Though not always comfortable, we can learn to loosen our stronghold on our perceived obligations. Becoming aware of our essential ties to why we do what we do is an instrumental part of making a change.
If you outline your average daily and weekly obligatory tasks, whether in a list or schedule format, you get a clearer picture of just how busy you are and why you’ve been longing for more breathing room. As well, what if you inserted the mound of other “shoulds” that you don’t have time for, but feel guilty about not doing? Yes, go ahead and pencil those in, too.
Once your busy life is charted in front of you, meditate, journal and gently observe your underpinning.
Getting adjusted to a slower, more simplified lifestyle isn’t quite so easy. Our needs, beliefs, loyalties and fears can be so powerful that breaking free can cause inner anguish as well as judgment from others, especially if your change in commitment affects them.
Why is simplicity so difficult?
We live in a culture that thrives on doing and accumulating. Removing ourselves from this reality is not easy. Choosing simplicity is counter-cultural.
First, we are social beings and like to feel connected to others. When others are engaged in faster-paced lifestyles it can be hard to disconnect; we can feel isolated.
Time can feel like an enemy of simplicity, as well. With all the to do's in our lives, there doesn't ever seem to be enough time. Our entire human-created schedule puts work at the forefront of how we spend most of our days with a tiny slice left to do everything else; we get the bonus of a couple of days "off."
Another obstacle in releasing our hold on the cultural demands is money. We all need it (hence those five devotional days to the god called Work). Even if we minimize what we must have to a trunk load of essentials, we still need a place to rest that trunk (and ourselves, of course) and food to keep us alive.
Simplicity, however, can be something we strive toward. It can make room for more joyful social connections as well as bring mindfulness to how we spend our time and money.
Simplicity begins with choices.
As the Holidays approach, we may find ourselves anticipating them with Comfort and Joy, or Dread and Despair. The taste of an oven roasted turkey, the gathering of family and friends, the shopping for food and gifts, the sending of cards, the decorating of houses – ours and for those little gingerbread folks! – the traveling, the weather, and so on. Each of these things can cause joy and despair, and although the Holidays are quickly approaching, we do have choices in how we approach the Holidays.
With four children and dozens of Holiday “obligations” each year, I often find myself looking forward to December 26th, if not January 2nd. Thanksgiving, and sometimes even Halloween, will start that anxiety snowball rolling, even if the weather outside isn’t frightful!
Several years ago, after exhaustion, stress and financial worries got the best of me, I searched for that white towel! It hung softly in my bathroom with an innocent little reindeer embroidered to it; Rudolf’s large eyes were begging me not throw it in. Instead, I decided to make a list of Holiday “To Do’s” and “To Don’ts” to remind me of the peaks and valleys I repeatedly traveled across year after year. My mindless path over the river and through the woods was well worn, but I knew it was up to me to create a new one.
Although “To Don’t” was clearly in the lead, both lists dashed away to blaze a new trail!
Perhaps this year, before writing your food, gift shopping or other obligatory “To Do” lists, you set aside a little time to allow your own visions of Sugar Plums – or whatever dreams you have for your Holidays – to dance from your head onto a piece of paper. You can do this alone, or with your family; or maybe you each make your own lists and then share and compare them to discover a few of your favorite things. On another list, note all the things you want to avoid this year – like cooking yams nobody actually eats or waiting ‘til Christmas eve to start your gift shopping.
To enjoy truly Happy Holidays, I want to create a balanced garland of festive activities and soulful rituals strung between peaceful spans of breathing space while I spend time with family and friends. I want my ears, heart and mind to listen deeply to the Carol of the Bells because when I do… Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, “throw cares away!”
Our Holiday traditions can be passed down from previous generations, or created completely anew; many times they simply emerge. Traditions are those things we repeat – mindfully or not – every year. Some people feel pangs of guilt if they break a tradition. In essence, this keeps them bound to the past. Present yourself one gift this year: release the traditions that don’t sing to your heart, and continue or create traditions that do.
The simplest things make my heart sing. As a non-baker and non-TV watcher, one joyful tradition is to bring a video player into my kitchen and spend a full day baking cookies with my children and“Elf” and embracing the assurance that “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Gratitude for what we receive and giving to others nestle in the heart of the Holy Days. These can be experienced superficiously, or deeper in our own hearts. Ritual can bring meaning and intention to our customs, as well as add Spiritual awareness. Rituals can be simple or elaborate; the intention is to let them speak to your soul. Celebrate the birth of your newly created “To Do” list; take a moment each evening to light a candle and envision and recite your heartfelt Holiday Wishes. Perhaps you create or participate in a formalized ritual to observe the Winter Solstice.
One of my all time favorite rituals is the Advent spiral. When I watch my children – whom Angels greet with anthems sweet – walk a spiral of evergreen to a lit candle during the Holy Days, my whole being remembers that all is calm, all is bright!
With all those sleigh bells ringing in practically every lane, the Holidays can quickly become overwhelming. Oddly, during a season meant for hibernating, we are often bombarded with invitations to go walking in a winter wonderland, dashing through the snow, or rocking around the Christmas tree – sometimes all on the same holy night! This year, think about marking every possible event down on your calendar and then carefully eliminate those that feel like burdensome obligations or simply overcrowd your Holidays. Write some activities down in pencil, then on the day of each event check in with yourself to see if it feels right to attend – allow yourself to take it one Holy Day at a time.
Adding another “To Do” in an already busy December wasn’t exactly in the forefront of my mind when I was conceiving my oldest daughter in March of 1993. Yet, when Barbra Streisand sings to me each Christmastime, “The best gift that I ever got, didn’t really weigh a lot…” I gladly plan my daughter’s birthday party. To lighten my load, however, I have converted events like attending our friend’s annual Christmas Caroling party or The Nutcracker to an every-other-year-or-so tradition.
All in all, it is up to us how we ring in the season. We can slow down and listen quietly as Heaven and Nature sing, or we can dash away, dash away, dash away all! When things start to wind up, we can remember to take a deep breath, re-read our heart’s Holiday Wish List and re-center ourselves by singing, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me” …preferably,with a voice as big as the sea!
Earlier this year, when I offered Akashic Records readings at a Sacramento Healing Arts Festival, nearly every client asked me, “What should I be doing with my life? What is my soul’s purpose?” At a time when so many people are spiritually waking up, many of us are finding an inner drive to know more about what we “should” be doing as well as a desire to be on our “path.” Though my specific insights were as unique as the person asking the question, I definitely see a collective, common answer for all of us.
When I first began working in the Akashic Records, I, too, would ask questions with the wordshould in it. Within no time, I learned that “SHould” is simply could with “SHame” attached to it. We ask "should” questions because we want to be doing the “right” thing, not only because we are noble, willing people, but because we somehow believe that if we did what we should be doing, then we would have joyful (i.e. “rewarding”) lives for doing so. These beliefs, however, can be rooted in duality (good/bad, right/wrong), which actually keep us bound to the energy of self-judgment and shame, which is obviously not a very joyful foundation.
If we release the concept of should and recognize the neutrality of could, we can begin to free ourselves from the shame game. Imagine releasing your concerns over not doing the “right” thing or being on your “right” path because you allow yourself to stop feeling wrong. Trusting you are always on your “right” path because it is “right” where you are can bring a sigh of relief to your heart and mind. When we accept what is, as it is now – without shame, judgment or worry about what isn’t – we more easily call forth joy, compassion and acceptance from and for ourselves and others.
Our lives are full of possibilities!... or shall I say, coulds. There is no rule anywhere (except in our minds) that we should do anything at all. Within all of these possibilities, however, we could choose to live in joy. Joy resonates at “high frequencies” which feels good to our bodies and souls. Perhaps this is what we yearn for when we seek our “Highest Good,” or perhaps we want to feel a sense of belonging or purpose.
I will not argue that contribution and service aren’t satisfying and helpful virtues. Indeed, these are quite admirable aspects of our life experience. I will point out, however, that both the need for belonging and fulfilling a purpose are fear and ego-driven. Our personalities want to feel part of something greater and grander than ourselves because we don’t feel adequately great or grand within ourselves.
The idea that we don’t have a “Soul’s Purpose” actually scares many of us. We base our sense of self worth on these deeply rooted beliefs. Not only does the idea of purpose imply that we should be “doing” something, conversely it implies that if we don’t fulfill it, we are somehow not “doing” our part (or are possibly on the “wrong” path)! Thus, we must not be worthy!
You ARE the part – the purpose – and you are actually the path! Your soul is worthy and whole in this very moment; your human aspect is simply trying to re-member this Truth! Each of us could choose to re-member that wholeness with joy – or not – but I will say that joy not only feels good, it creates a clearer, more beautiful path to experience while on our journey.
The drive to unveil our purpose, then, is actually our desire to reveal our True Self – this is what is known as our Spiritual Awakening. Once we awaken to the Truth that we ARE worthy – simply by BEING – and accept it inwardly, we can more easily live outwardly in alignment with this Universal Truth.
Can you imagine a world where each of us behaves as if we are undeniably worthy just because we exist? From this basis, contribution and service become authentic, joyful expressions of our True Selves, rather than shoulds along a path that hopes to prove our worthiness to ourselves and others.
As you awaken, listen to your inner urge to find your heart’s desire, then reflect on the wise words of Ram Dass:
The word judgment can feel like a loaded word, and rightly so, because judgment can weigh us down if we have emotional attachments to whatever judgments have been made by ourselves or by others. One day our words may have less duality and charge in them. For now, however, there are very few words (especially words associated with spirituality) that reflect neutral experiences and expressions of life, much less words that are free from connotations. Thus, judgment as a word and as a verb express this duality in our language and our world.
We use our judgments to make choices, and if we experience desired results, we conclude we made the "right" decision and likely feel good. Conversely, if our results are not what we expected or wanted, we usually assume we made the "wrong" choice and negative feelings can consume us.
If we choose, we can learn to perceive all choices as neutral. Conscious or not, we make choices at each moment in our lives (even if we don't choose anything at all) and we experience the consequences of our decisions. Most of what we experience in our instantaneous and on-going cylce of judgment-choice is actually quite neutral, leaving us with little or no feelings regarding it, and the pattern goes unnoticed.
You can brush your teeth before your shower, during or after it. You can wear the comfortably worn outfit or the newer, crisper one. You can pet your dog before your cat notices, or put your dog outside and spend a few minutes caressing your cat.
Choices like which handrail we hold when we go down the stairs usually don't have a great impact in our lives. Yet, when we encounter what we think is an "important" decision, we assume there is a "right" or "wrong" way to proceed. We make a judgment, a choice, and hope we picked the correct option. And, because we have a vested interest, we probably have an emotional attachment to the outcome.
If our results are favorable, we experience good feelings and continue down our paths with gratitude. If, however, unpleasantries result, we can find ourselves feeling bad about our choice and bad about ourselves. Sure, we may wonder and worry about others judging us too, but it's our self-judgment that affects us most.
What if we simply saw everything we did through the eyes of neutrality? What if we plainly remarked, "Interesting," with no judgmental thoughts or opinions about the choice, the end result, or ourselves? This does not imply this is a more "noble" or "correct" way of perceiving, merely a "what if?"
If we began to make our choices without the hooks of "right" or "wrong" embedded in them, then the experience each choice leads to could be just that... an experience. Maybe even an interesting one.
Many years ago, I read a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy, and absolutely loved it. It was a time in my life when I felt like I didn’t have very much, but desired desperately to feel abundant. In times of economic uncertainty, we are all feeling those pangs of desire for both simplicity and abundance, I’m sure.
Over the course of mothering my four children, I have found that simplicity actually creates a sacred space for abundance to flourish. I have not had any credit cards since 2000, I don’t have a cell phone or laptop computer, I own a modest TV which is only used for an occasional movie rental (and doesn’t even work for television), and I have gone without a microwave for at least six years. By refraining from some things people nowadays consider “basic”, I have experienced the “comfort and joy” in not having these modern day conveniences. In the simplicity of my lifestyle, it has been easier for me to remember and connect with the things that are truly important to me.
Living without a television in my child-filled home isn’t as difficult as people might think. “What do your kids do?” people wonder. They play, read, go outside, or do nothing at all. To watch a child be in the nothing at all space can be uncomfortable for adults who are so used to doing, doing, doing in the name of productivity. Yet, it’s in the nothingness that all things are born. With the simplicity of space and imagination the world is infinitely abundant in the hearts of children at play.
What would you do with your time – for relaxation, play or entertainment – if it wasn’t being filled with something that isn’t truly important to you? How does it feel to you to do nothing at all?
Although I may not be able to find a pay phone when I need one, I have found the generosity of strangers instead. Inevitably when I walk into a store, library or other venue and ask, “Is there a pay phone around here?” the person behind the counter offers me his or her cell phone to use. In this way, I have made more than the connection I was originally seeking.
What ways do you most enjoy connecting with others? What would it be like to experience dis-connection for a day or more? Who do you connect with in your life?
Taking the time to cook our family meals takes no more time than using a microwave. I always found it odd to see the directions for “Microwave Use” vs. “Stovetop” to be only a matter of tiny minutes. The taste (not to mention conservation of nutrients) is worth the wait; it allows time for my children to help set the table before our family sits around it, blesses our food and eats together.
What would it be like to slow down and savor your life? Who would you spend time with? What do you bless every day?
In this time of rapid change and uncertainty, we yearn for stability; it’s a natural response. If we remember that true stability is offered by a good foundation, we can begin to evaluate, and perhaps rebuild, the foundation of our lives with things that are most important to us. Whatever we add to the foundation is up to each of us, of course. In my own experience, keeping things simple (by not adding too much) has kept me closer to my foundation – my family – which allows me to feel both its stability as well as its abundance.
What’s most important to you in your life? What do you want to build on that foundation, and will it bear the weight of what you are adding? Is there anything you can do to create more stability, or do you notice that it is already strong and abundant?
Right now you are likely feeling completely split over just about every decision in your life. Do I do THIS or THAT? You listen, ponder, analyze and even wait for a sign from the Universe. Yet, the “answer” is far from clear and confusion reigns with an iron fist!
As we move closer to Oneness, we find ourselves more confused than ever as we try to find the “right” way to live our lives. We want to make more conscious choices, listen more carefully to Source, and help, in some way, contribute our gifts and/or services to the betterment of Life. A beautiful offering; so, why are we utterly confused about how to do this?
Upon agreeing to awaken, we successfully passed the threshold of making more conscious choices. And, generally speaking, this has been a reward in and of itself. Thankfully, most of us feel we have been Divinely guided along the way. Sometimes it was our intuition, other times we prayed for the answers, or maybe a friend or two helped in our decision making processes. Likely, we used a combination of methods to be really clear about what to do next.
These days, however, Life seems to be a bit more foggy. Decisions seem to be demanding our attention and many of them are pretty big ones at that! Our intuition is on summer vacation, praying has turned into begging for an answer to knock us over the head, and our faithful friends are just as baffled as we are and offer conflicting advice! For some unsettling reason, we seem to have lost our “guides” and feel we are all alone as we try to make these conscious and important choices.
Did I mention the importance of breathing? As you feel the anxiety around all of this, just take a nice, deep breath – and even another one, right here, right now – before reading on. (Ah, that’s better.)
Well, the good news is, we are not alone! We still have Divine guidance; and as we awaken to our own Divinity, we are being asked to “fine tune” our inner listening skills and strengthen our trust in ourselves. And, it is helpful to note, as we release duality “either-or” decisions become much harder to make! Increasing trust in ourselves includes realizing the perfection of any choice we make and releasing the beliefs around “right” or “wrong” decisions. Although we may understand this on a deeper level, we always want to do what is “right” anyway!
As the pendulum swings from the Divine Masculine realm of analysis, logic and linear thinking toward the Divine Feminine realm of intuition, knowing and feeling, our souls are urging us to expand these inborn gifts in ourselves. We do not have to abandon our tried and true left-brain activities; we do have to nurture the right-brain ones, however, if we want to create more balance in our lives and have an easier time with those looming decisions. There are a number of ways to cultivate our intuition, creativity and emotional energies including (but not limited to) free-form journaling, dance, music and art; as well as more structured formats such as intuitive skills classes, learning through books, heart-centered group gatherings and numerous healing therapies.
Trusting ourselves can be a life long pursuit; it can also be highly developed to allow more ease in our lives. One way to develop any skill is through practice; the more you practice, the faster you develop the skill. And, it can be very helpful to have a teacher along the way. Teachers come in all forms: ministers, therapists, parents, friends, spiritual counselors, and life coaches to name a few. They can also appear as self-help books or other inspirational sources. Allowing someone to support us can be an empowering step toward self trust.
During this time of rapid expansion, when decisions can often overwhelm us, it is important to be gentle with ourselves. Here are some simple guidelines to assist us: